If I’m being terribly honest, I’m not a big fan of the wedding kiss.
A couple of years ago, when two dear friends got married, I cheered inside after, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” was, for once, not inexorably followed with, “You may kiss the bride.” This couple agreed with me -first kisses are a special, sweet kind of romance that are best shared in private -not in front of the prying eyes of two hundred people. Instead, the groom whisked the bride away and they had their first kiss without the gawkers.
Those poor gawkers. I promise, half of the talk after the wedding was about how people “didn’t get to see the first kiss.” I’m in the minority, but I took it upon myself to scold, “Their first kiss isn’t for you, you know -it’s for them!” I realize that first kisses are a way to show the covenant between man and wife –but I think I will have showed the audience enough covenanting by then… I mean, I did say, “I do,” didn’t I?
All right, so I’m being a bit silly to make a point. But whether your first kiss happens at the altar or afterwards, on the front porch after your first date or after you’ve been presented with an engagement ring, I think we can all agree that first kisses are special.
Kissing conversations. I’ve had my fair share. With girls who have never been kissed, debating over whether or not they’ll kiss before the altar, at the alter, or after the altar… to the extreme opposite side of the spectrum, with girls in their young teens playing a game of truth-or-dare where they revealed their first kiss. Out of five girls -and being the oldest, at fifteen -I cleared my throat about ten times before admitting, “I’ve never been kissed.”
“Well, what do you do when you go on a date, and he says goodnight?” someone asked me.
I shrugged. “I don’t date.”
Her eyes were as round as saucers. “Not ’till you’re sixteen?”
Now, I grinned. All eyes were pinned on me. I had an opportunity to answer the question that many young women have asked me how on earth to answer! It’s the question I’ve avoided writing about on my blog because the “dating/courtship” debate usually either turns into an ugly finger-pointing argument wherein the “pure” line up on one side of the room and the “impure” line up on the other… or a “yes man” echo-chamber where the likeminded commune to cast stones at the “harlots” (a relative term that I’ve heard to mean anything from a girl who had her first kiss before she got married to the loose woman in Proverbs 7). In either case, such a showdown is not my cup of tea. However, as young women who are to prize purity, these are conversations that aren’t always going to be as easy to shy away from as keeping an article hidden away in your drafts folder.
I’m swallowing my trepidation the same way I did at fifteen, during years where, having been carefully discipled by my parents, I was looking forward to proving my mettle at the school of my erstwhile dreams, UCLA, where I wanted to learn all I could about filmmaking and join the ranks of my favorite director, M. Night Shyamalan. Yes, “even” then, before the whole “stay at home daughter” thing, I wasn’t planning on dating. The movement away from the system is not some fringe, fundamentalist shift. It wasn’t a decision that I was embarrassed about.
“I’ve really got a lot of other things on my plate right now,” I explained simply. “I want a lot of things out of life. I’m not ready to get married, so I don’t have the time or energy to expend bouncing around from guy to guy until I find Mr. Right.”
Wide-eyed again, my questioner continued, “So what are you going to do when you’re ready?”
“I’ll talk to my parents about it, and we’ll make the decisions together.”
The inevitable question that follows will come in many forms, but the one you’re probably most familiar with (and maybe the one you’re asking yourself right now) is “What does that look like?”
My answer is always a simple, “I don’t know.” The Bible does have principles regarding finding a spouse, but there is no passage with the 1, 2, 3’s of courtship and dating, and to suggest that there is walks dangerously close to legalism. “Courtship” and “dating” are, in and of themselves, difficult words to define with a myriad of meanings. When I say, “I don’t date,” I mean, “I don’t engage in casual, serial romantic relationships with the opposite sex.” When I say, “I believe in courtship” I don’t mean, “My dad will go out and let me know when he’s found the guy I’m going to marry.”
I don’t know who my husband will be, how well we’ll know each other before he becomes interested in me romantically, if he’ll be someone who lives right in my backyard or someone I’ll meet overseas, if my dad will meet him first and introduce us or if I’ll meet him first and approach my parents, if he’ll be a man who grew up with the same mindset about dating that I have, or if he’s been a man who’s used to the game I’ve so long avoided -I don’t know about his first kiss -I don’t know about the first time he ever fell in love -I don’t know if he will have had a first date, or several.
All I can control is my conviction that romance is not a game, and that heavy words like “I love you” -when not weighed in light of a commitment -can be confusing -that “little” things like kisses and flutters of the heart can turn into big problems when we don’t approach them with wisdom and discernment. At fifteen, I didn’t have that discernment. At twenty -head-over-heels in love -I would be very glad to have four extra discerning eyes in the form of my parents when I move forward with heavy romantic decisions.
Because “I love you” is special -because first kisses are priceless -I want to walk the minefield of romance (is anyone else singing Love is a Battlefield in their heads right now, or is that just me?) circumspectly. If you are careful with your romantic decisions, this is not weakness, insecurity, or repression -it’s wisdom (Proverbs 15:22).
What do you say when someone asks you whether or not you date? How do you answer the “How will you know that you love someone if you never date ” question? What do you do when a stranger asks you out on a date (yes, it does happen)? What do you do when someone that you really like doesn’t share your convictions about dating, but wants to get to know you?
Don’t pull out your soap box or your battle-axe. Speak calmly, concisely, and relationally. Don’t talk about people “out there” and the mistakes that “they” make -speak in first person about your convictions and your choices. The conversation will go a lot smoother if you don’t wear your lack of a first kiss or a first date like a badge of honor that ought to shame the blushless world.
A question I don’t get quite as often comes from young women who have dated, who have been in love, who have had their first kisses, who have lived with ex-boyfriends, who have had their hearts broken… to whom the purity discussion can seem like a slap in the face, even when our words are seasoned with grace.
Here’s the thing about love -our God in Heaven has a limitless supply (1 John 4:8). Even when you’ve been hurt by romance -even when you’ve sinned in your heart or with your mind or even with your body -the Lord mends (Psalm 32). You are never secondhand goods -at least, not anymore than any of the rest of us who have fallen are -we have all been restored in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Yes, we are commanded to flee sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18) -yes, sin -any sin -is a grievous thing. But how often do we -instead of grieving with our brothers and sisters -puff up at the sins we have not committed? If you have found yourself guilty of sinning in this way against your sisters in Christ, I urge you to repent -such a heart is not fitting for a daughter of the King.
Yes, purity is important -purity of thoughts and purity of action. This is why it is so important for us young women to safeguard ourselves in the way we speak, in the way we act, in the way we think, in the way we dress, in the people that we spend our time with. We want to be presented to our husband as “spotless brides,” as the Church was presented to Christ (Ephesians 5:22ff) –however, Christ has loved His Church throughout the ages… even when we faltered, and it was only because of his sacrifice that we are seen as “spotless” (Romans 5:6-10). If you are in need of encouragement in this area, I recommend this article by Dr. Russell Moore (not for young readers).
Having the dating discussion is like walking a tightrope between condemnation and conviction. We can so easily fall off on either side when we don’t understand God’s grace -which rescued us from our sin not based on our merit (Ephesians 2:8)… and brought us into the glorious light of a new life (John 14:15). The purpose of talking about dating, courtship, purity, and romance is not to puff ourselves up with pride or to bury ourselves in guilt -it is to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ -wherever they are on this journey -to give yet another area of their lives over to Christ, to repent of our sins -from sins in our hearts to the sins done with our hands -and to lean on God’s grace in the trenches of the battlefield of the world.